A recent conversation with a friend about Eric Sloane prompted me to go through his papers in my file cabinet. The first item I found was the following story that I wrote many years ago, and never published. I remember with great fondness that interesting event with my friend Eric.
Today I look around at me,
And rue so many things I see.
Maybe it will help if we
Recall the way they used to be.
The Sheet Episode
One winter morning about 1980, while gathering some sun near the pond behind my gallery, I told Eric a funny Taos story about an Indian who had been invited to dinner at the home of Louise and Joseph Henry Sharp. During the meal, the host and his wife retreated briefly to the kitchen. When they returned they found that their guest had departed along with Louise’s prized white linen table cloth that had adorned the table. The dishes were askew and Louise was aghast. The next day Sharp witnessed the Indian walking near the plaza wearing his new wrap-around table cloth.
My story reminded Eric that in 1925, when he visited Taos Pueblo, most of the Indian men wore white sheets as an outer garment. He recalled that many years earlier, some of the men wore nothing at all in the summer time, except maybe an eagle feather hair decoration.
During the Army presence at the pueblo after the revolt of 1847, some of the wives complained that the feathers didn’t cover up enough. Kit Carson took the matter up with the Governor of the Pueblo, and after some deliberation, the Indians agreed to wear clothing, but only if the Army supplied the garments.
A simple solution was effected with the issue of regulation army sheets for the Indians to wear, thus starting a long and colorful tradition at Taos Pueblo. Everyone was happy, especially the female tourists.
Unfortunately, over time the Army disappeared from Taos Pueblo, and so did the white sheets.
So, Eric and I decided to re-supply sheets to the Indians, expecting them to be thrilled, and we could wallow in the realization that an interesting episode in Taos Pueblo history had been rekindled. The next day, with a gross of J.C. Penny sheets in my car, we struck for Taos where we spoke with the Governor of the pueblo. After telling him the Kit Carson story, we suggested that he take our gifts and issue them to what we were sure would be a delighted group of natives.
We departed the pueblo with the gratification that belongs only to those who have made great cultural contributions on a magnificent scale. Our friends held us in thrall until the next day when a friend of Eric’s in Taos phoned him to report that the governor and two of his friends were successful in wholesaling large quantities of sheets on the plaza.
Eric and I had a good laugh at our own expense but were somewhat pleased to know that at least we had added, in some small way, to the economic growth of the pueblo. f